This Hour: Latest Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont news, sports, business and entertainment - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

This Hour: Latest Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont news, sports, business and entertainment

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MAINE:

ME-MAINE UNEMPLOYMENT

Maine unemployment falls to 5.9 percent in March

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine officials say the state's unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in March.

The state Department of Labor reported Friday that the unemployment figure fell from 6.1 percent last month and 6.8 percent a year ago.

The share of the population that is employed was 61.8 percent, which is 2.9 percent more than the national average. The department said March was also the 78th consecutive month the employment to population ratio was above the national average.

The national unemployment rate estimate for March was 6.7 percent, while New England's estimate was 6.3 percent. Vermont had the lowest unemployment rate in New England at 3.4 percent, while Rhode Island was highest at 8.7 percent.

The state's figures for Maine are seasonally adjusted.

MAINE LEGISLATURE

Medicaid, welfare to play big in Maine campaigns

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Democrats have fallen short so far in their attempt to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law this year and Republicans didn't get their wish to overhaul the state's welfare programs, either.

But that won't stop them from trying to transform those failures into successes on the campaign trail as they now return to their districts to drum up votes for the November elections.

Democrats' continued push to expand health care and Republicans' repeated efforts to transform welfare are issues that will play well with their base as they blame each other for lack of progress in Augusta.

Lawmakers finished up their work for the session early Friday, but will return in May to override outstanding vetoes from Republican Gov. Paul LePage, likely including another Medicaid expansion bill.

MAINE MARIJUANA SHOW

Marijuana trade show coming to Bangor on Saturday

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The largest medical marijuana trade show in New England is coming to Bangor, Maine.

Homegrown Maine 2014 takes place at the Spectacular Events Center in the city on Saturday.

Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine organizes the event, which is in its third year. A spokeswoman for the organization said the event is geared at caregivers, patients and growers. The organization estimates that thousands of people will attend the event.

The trade show also includes a smoking tent outside the facility for qualified users. Organizers said the event will include workshops, classes, vendors and performances.

There will be no marijuana for sale at the event.

DENTAL THERAPISTS

Dental therapist position approved by Maine Senate

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A bill supporters say will increase access to dental care in rural areas of Maine has been approved by the state Senate.

The Portland Press Herald reports that the bill that creates a new type of dental provider, known as a "mid-level dental therapist," has already won approval in the House. It now heads to the governor's desk.

The dental therapists would be able to perform certain procedures, including filling cavities and pulling teeth, under the supervision of a fully trained dentist.

The new position would require additional training.

Supporters say many rural areas of Maine have a shortage of dentists, which means residents often go without proper dental care.

Opponents of the bill say the real issue is not accessibility, but affordability.

CHILD EXPLOITATION CHARGE

Portland man faces child exploitation charge

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A Portland man has been arrested on charges that he made a video of himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Paul Henry was ordered held pending a detention hearing at his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday on a charge of sexual exploitation of a child.

Prosecutors say the videos were found on the 24-year-old Henry's phone while he was being investigated for allegedly holding a 19-year-old woman against her will in a Portland hotel and prostituting her.

The three videos were found after police executed a search warrant on the phone.

The detention hearing has been scheduled for next week.

It was not clear if Henry had a lawyer.

SQUIRT GUN-SUSPENSION

Suspended Lewiston student likely involved in game

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - School officials and police think the Lewiston High School 10th-grader suspended for having a bright yellow squirt gun at school was likely involved in a game called "Assassin."

The 15-year-old student suspended for 10 days was disciplined after the squirt gun fell out of his backpack. His name was not made public.

Under rules of the game, participants try to squirt an assigned target, often in public.

Detective Sgt. Joe Bradeen tells the Sun Journal that city residents have been calling police lately to report strange vehicles and people walking through their neighborhoods, often at odd hours. He says some squirt guns looks like real weapons, which could lead to a dangerous situation.

Schools Superintendent Bill Webster says the game should not be played on school grounds.

BANK FRAUD

Ex-teller sentenced for stealing from customers

BANGOR, Maine (AP) - A former teller at a Searsport bank has been sentenced to one month in prison and seven months of home confinement for stealing about $26,000 from customers.

Brittany Mace, who worked at the Bangor Savings Bank in Searsport, was also ordered Thursday to pay back the money and serve five years of probation.

Authorities say the 24-year-old Mace made unauthorized transactions for amounts as low as $20 and of more than $1,000 from the accounts of 48 customers, many elderly and with dementia, between August 2010 and November 2011, often by manipulating records and forging signatures. She took more than $10,000 from one customer alone.

She pleaded guilty in November to embezzlement.

She told authorities she used the money to support a drug habit and pay bills.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

SENATOR ODELL-RETIRING

New Hampshire state Sen. Odell won't seek new term

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Six-term state Sen. Bob Odell says he will not seek re-election this fall.

Odell, a Republican from New London, represents the Upper Valley. Before being elected to the Senate in 2002, he served in the House of Representatives for one term.

Odell made news Thursday when he changed his position and voted to repeal the death penalty. He said he would have trouble explaining a vote against repeal to his young grandchildren. The repeal measure failed.

During the past legislative session, Odell chaired the Ways and Means Committee, was vice chairman of Energy and Natural Resources and served on the Finance Committee.

Odell was born in Nashua and raised in Milford. He graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. He has eight grandchildren.

HEROIN ARRESTS

2 charged with selling heroin in seacoast area

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - Police have arrested two people after a months-long investigation into the sale of heroin on New Hampshire's seacoast.

Thirty-year-old Patrick Pickford of Portsmouth has been charged with three counts of sales of a narcotic drug and with possession with intent to distribute. He is out on bail from the state of Maine on a heroin possession charge.

Police said 19-year-old Chandler Ricker of Portsmouth was charged with one count of sale of a narcotic drug and one possession count.

In making the arrests, police seized about $1,000 worth of heroin along with an undisclosed amount of cash, and drug paraphernalia.

It wasn't immediately known if Pickford and Ricker had lawyers.

NEW PURPLE HEART

World War I veteran's family gets new Purple Heart

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - A World War I veteran from New Hampshire is being remembered with a Purple Heart.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte presented the honor to Kathryn Fernald of Londonderry on Thursday, the granddaughter of the late Chris Wick.

Wick earned the Purple Heart for injuries suffered while serving in the U.S. Army in France during the war.

Fernald contacted Ayotte's office to request a replacement after the original Purple Heart was misplaced.

STOLEN TV-WEBSITE

Police: TV stolen, offered for sale on website

KEENE, N.H. (AP) - Police in Keene, N.H., say they've arrested someone in connection with a television stolen from a home and then offered for sale via a social media website the next day.

They arrested 27-year-old Laurence Root of Sullivan on a charge of burglary Thursday.

On Wednesday, police responded to the burglary at the home. They developed information that led to the web posting about the television, which led them to Root. It wasn't immediately known if he had a lawyer.

The television has since been recovered.

VERMONT:

MARCH UNEMPLOYMENT

Vermont unemployment rate drops to 3.4 percent

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Department of Labor says the state's unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percent last month to 3.4 percent, the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the country.

Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says Vermont is growing private sector jobs and people are finding work.

She says a goal for her department now is helping employers find workers. Still, the department needs to ensure people are "career-ready."

The 3.4 percent unemployment rate is down from 3.7 percent in February and compares with a rate of 4.2 percent in March 2013.

Unemployment in the state's 17 labor markets ranged from a low of 2.4 percent in Warren-Waitsfield to 6.6 percent in Newport.

TROOPERS SHOT

Mental health evaluation ordered in shootings case

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (AP) - A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation of a Vermont man charged with shooting and wounding two state police troopers and a disabled neighbor to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

The Rutland Herald reports Timothy Foley of Leicester appeared at a court hearing on Thursday, during which he pleaded innocent to two counts of attempted second-degree murder and two counts of attempted aggravated murder.

When the judge asked if he understood the proceedings and the pending evaluation, Foley nodded.

None of the three people Foley allegedly fired on with a shotgun were seriously injured.

DRUG ARRESTS

8 people arrested in drug sweep

HARTFORD, Vt. (AP) - Police in the Vermont town of Hartford say eight people have been arrested on the sale and possession of narcotics.

Police said the arrests started Wednesday with a search warrant at a home and the arrest of a 22-year-old man. Several more arrests followed on allegations of trying to place "orders," sell and supply the man with drugs.

At least two people were found in possession of over $1,200 worth of illegal drugs.

Police have not yet released the names of those arrested.

GENERAL STORE REVIVAL

General store succeeding after reopening

BARNARD, Vt. (AP) - A nonprofit group's effort to buy and reopen a building that housed a general store for 180 years in Vermont has been a success.

The Barnard General Store closed in 2012. The Barnard Community Trust raised $500,000 to buy the building, which reopened last May.

Vermont Public Radio reports operators Joe Minerva and Jillian Bradley live in an apartment above the store.

Minerva says the couple has taken an approach that reflects a more traditional grocery store model, with contemporary tastes. The store features craft beers, seafood and custom cut meats.

The store also serves breakfast and lunch.

The man focus has been on expanding the grocery selection, which accounts for about 70 percent of the store's revenue.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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